Dead Red-Tailed Hawk in Central Park may be Crown Building hawk


The headline above links to a New York Times article referring to a Red-tailed Hawk that was found in Central Park yesterday.

Now that the story is public, I feel I can now speak about it. I heard about the dead hawk yesterday from a friend and was quite worried the hawk might be one of the two hawks I've been recently photographing building a nest on the Crown Building. 

What made my worries deepen in the morning before work was not seeing any Crown Building hawk flying to or from the nest, soaring, or perched on regular nearby perches. I almost always see at least one of the above activities in the morning.

I went to Central Park during lunch to seek out the pair and was relieved to see a pair soaring above the regular territory above and north of Grand Army Plaza (the same territory the Southeastern Central Park hawks fly). Neither of the hawks went to the Crown Building nest itself during my brief visit but one of the Crown Building hawks soared above Bergdorf Goodman department store and by the Solow Building.

When I first wrote this post I suggested perhaps the two hawks I saw today were either members of the original Crown Building nesting pair or one of the two hawks was a new hawk on the scene, pairing up with the recently-widowed red-tail as a potential mate. As we know from watching Bobby and Pale Male, hawks can find a new mate within hours of losing its old one to death or disappearance.

Upon looking at today's photos in closer detail, it looks like either the two hawks I saw today were fighting or courting each other. It's tough to tell but I heard from a more experienced hawk-watcher that courting can look like fighting at first.

Both hawks have slightly tattered wings, as if they've had a few scuffles. One of the hawks was definitely one of the original nesting Crown Building hawks. I recognize its coloring and markings on sight.  The second hawk I saw today did not look like its mate. Instead, its original mate had a more chocolatey-brown head and lighter chest coloring. The 'new' hawk I saw today looks more reddish on its head and on the underside of its wings (which looks more heavily-patterned than the other mate was). It's the not knowing for sure which is troublesome.

New hawk?


The wing on the left is missing a major feather. The feather could either be missing from molting, an accident, or a fight. A feather on the wing on the right is broken at the tip:


Missing feather:


Original nesting Crown Building hawk in defensive posture against the upper hawk:



The behavior was either a fight or a rough courtship display. Only time will tell if these two hawks warm up to each other and become mates or are of the same sex and will fight over the territory or one of the hawks will move on and find its own realm.

This could very well mean the deceased hawk was the nesting hawk's mate. If that is the case, I do hope the Crown Building hawk is not pregnant (if it is the female) or else there will be trouble at the nest when she has no mate to supply food and take turns incubating the eggs. That is, if she is pregnant and does not find a new mate by the time the eggs are laid.

I only suspect for now, until I learn more, that the original Crown Building hawk is a female since it has spent most of the time fortifying the nest, bringing twigs to the nest, and landing on the nest.

The Crown Building hawk may not have gone to the nest because it didn't want the other hawk to see it.

Crown Building hawk seen left of center below (flying in front of the Solow Building):



New hawk(?):




Crown Building hawk:


Hawk flying further north:


This turn of events is quite new and I hope to be able to spend a decent amount of time in Central Park during lunch hour over the next few weeks to come to the bottom of this case.